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Someday, a study will determine if business teams have become more -- or less -- collaborative because of all of the enterprise collaboration software now available. Another one emerged this week, with Japan-based ChatWork announcing the official entry into the U.S. market of its cloud collaboration solution. 

The company’s offering utilizes group or individual text, voice, video chats, task management and file sharing for use inside and between companies. Two new features are being added for the U.S. release -- video chat and screensharing -- both of which presently require a small browser plug-in. The company said that both capabilities will be available without plug-in by sometime this Q2.

Compared to Email

Except for use of those two new features in the short term, ChatWork works in most contemporary browsers and requires no additional software. A mobile app is available for Android and iOS devices.

The platform is based around group communication, such as searchable instant messaging or group chat, as well as file sharing and task management. The company compares its productivity through IMs to working through email, a notoriously unproductive way of communication that seems something of a straw man. Contacts can be imported from Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Windows Live and Tumblr accounts.

The company said it adds about 15,000 new users every month, and is “on track” to reach a million users this year. CEO Toshiyuki Yamamoto said in a statement that “our simple platform is a clever way to increase team productivity and decrease information overload.”

One Free User?

The “simple platform” appears to be rather rudimentary. The fairly plain website shows a few basic features for Group Chat, Tasks, Files and Mobile. The free version -- a common way of getting customers accustomed to your product and ready to upgrade to premium versions -- is for one user, a curious configuration for a communication and collaboration tool. But the free, one-user version does include “up to 14 Group Chats,” which begs the questions of whom you will be chatting with. Up to 400MB of storage and unlimited contacts are also included in the free version.

The press release does indicate that “two non-paying users can use video chat and make voice calls with up to 100 ChatWork contacts,” which can be expanded to a video chat with up to 14 free or paid users if one or more paid users are part of the group. Fairly complex, especially considering other video/voice calling tools out there.